Dec 06 2016

Students Want Their Personal Data to be Used to Improve the College Experience, Survey Says

Higher ed students believe universities can improve in the next 10 years by tracking their information.

Using student data to inform educational decisions has been a hot topic over the past few years. Predictive analytics to improve student success, along with data-informed decision-making, were named by EDUCAUSE as two of their top 10 IT issues for 2017. And, as one study indicates, students don’t mind when their colleges track them.

A whopping 98 percent of respondents to an Ellucian survey conducted by Wakefield Research said they want their schools to use their personal data to create an optimized college experience. Also, a majority of the 1,000 U.S. college students who took the survey believe their schools can create this positive change in the next 10 years.

The students surveyed have a laundry list of improvements they want their schools to make: make it easier to track graduation requirements, assist in joining student organizations, aid in course selection and registration. The good news, however, is some universities are already making strides to do exactly what these students want.

Data Helps Boost Retention and Streamline Advising

In the Ellucian survey, 62 percent of students said they wanted their university to improve academic processes like tracking graduation progress and 53 percent wanted to see an improvement in the system for scheduling advising sessions.

EdTech reported on Middle Tennessee State University, which used predictive analytics to create a new-school method of advising: students deemed “at risk” of not graduating received targeted interventions.

But perhaps one of the first to use predictive analytics was the University of Kentucky. UK partnered with Dell back in 2012 to deploy an SAP platform to analyze and predict student graduation likelihood, Campus Technology reports.

“One problem we wanted to address was how to immediately affect student success in the short term,” says Vince Kellen, UK’s senior vice provost for academic planning, analytics, and technologies in a 2014 Dell video.

“Part of our predictive model was to look at students who weren’t exactly hopeless cases, but they weren’t sure bets. Students that had a 50 percent probability of returning. We did some direct work and saw a 66 percent re-enrollment rate.”

Future Use of Analytics Include Chatbots and Health Screening

The Ellucian survey also found that students wanted their data to streamline course registration (59 percent), improve obtaining student health care (49 percent) and help with joining student organizations (44 percent).

One way that this data can be utilized is through personalized chatbots. In an article on eCampus News, Jami Morshed, vice president of global higher education at global solutions provider Unit4, writes that with student data, chatbots provide support: everything from the application process to moving in to the dorms and beyond.

“After acceptance, a university ‘welcome bot’ could ask the student to select an upcoming orientation to attend and provide directions to campus, and even help the student select courses from a list of options specific to their application,” writes Morshed.

Georgia State University has already jumped on this. Pounce, a text messaging chatbot created by Boston-based ed tech startup AdmitHub, is helping students transition to college, according a blog post on the company's website.

The chatbot has guided students through filing financial aid, applying for housing and registering for classes. Scott Burke, GSU’s assistant vice president for undergraduate admissions, said in the blog post that the university had an overwhelming 71 percent engagement rate of admitted students using the bot.

Another potential use for student data? University health services and the corresponding psychological, physical, and psychosocial needs of a large student body. EdTech reported on an app/wearable combo that Michigan State University was developing to help with the treatment of depression.


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